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Jerry Robinson (born January 1, 1922 in Trenton, New Jersey) is an American comic book artist best known for his work on the Batman line of comics during the 1940s.
Early life and career
Jerry Robinson was a journalism student at Columbia University in Manhattan when he began working for writer-artist Bob Kane in 1939. Kane, with writer Bill Finger, had shortly before created the character Batman for National Comics, the future DC Comics. Robinson rented a room from a family in The Bronx near Kane's family's Grand Concourse apartment, where Kane used his bedroom as an art studio.He started as a letterer and a background inker, shortly graduating to inking secondary figures.Within a year, he became Batman's primariy inker, with George Roussos inking backgrounds. Batman quickly became a hit character, and Kane rented space for Robinson and Roussos in Times Square's Times Tower.
Approximately a year and a half after being hired by Kane, National Comics hired Robinson and Finger away from Kane, making them company staffers. Robinson recalled working in the bullpen at the company's 480 Lexington Avenue office, alongside Superman creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, Jack Kirby, Fred Ray, and Mort Meskin, "who was one of my best friends, who I brought up from [comics publisher] MLJ
Robin and the Joker
By early 1940, Kane and Finger discussed adding a sidekick. Robinson suggested the name "Robin," after Robin Hood books he had read during boyhood, saying in a 2005 interview he was inspired by one book's N.C. Wyeth illustrations. The new character, orphaned circus performer named Dick Grayson, came to live with Bruce Wayne as his young ward in Detective Comics #38 (April 1940) and would inspire many similar sidekicks throughout the Golden Age of comic books.
Batman's archnemesis the Joker was introduced near that same time, in Batman #1 (Spring 1940). Credit for that character's creation is disputed. Robinson has said he created the character. Kane's position is that “ Bill Finger and I created the Joker. Bill was the writer. Jerry Robinson came to me with a playing card of the Joker. That's the way I sum it up. [The Joker] looks like Conrad Veidt — you know, the actor in The Man Who Laughs [the 1928 movie based on the novel] by Victor Hugo. ... Bill Finger had a book with a photograph of Conrad Veidt and showed it to me and said, 'Here's the Joker.' Jerry Robinson had absolutely nothing to do with it. But he'll always say he created it till he dies. He brought in a playing card, which we used for a couple of issues for him [the Joker] to use as his playing card." ”
Robinson, whose original Joker playing card was on public display in the exhibition "Masters of American Comics" at the Jewish Museum in New York City, New York, from Sept. 16, 2006 to Jan. 28, 2007, and the William Breman Jewish Heritage Museum in Atlanta, Georgia from Oct. 24, 2004 to Aug. 28, 2005, has countered that: “ Bill Finger knew of Conrad Veidt because Bill had been to a lot of the foreign films. Veidt ... had this clown makeup with the frozen smile on his face. When Bill saw the first drawing of the Joker, he said, 'That reminds me of Conrad Veidt in The Man Who Laughs.' He said he would bring in some shots of that movie to show me. That's how that came about. I think in Bill's mind, he fleshed out the concept of the character. ”
In 1943, when Kane left the Batman comic books to focus on penciling the daily Batman newspaper comic strip, Robinson took over the full penciling, along with others such as Dick Sprang. As was customary of the time, only Kane's name appeared on the strip.
Robinson went on to work on numerous other characters and for several publishers, at one point even doing free-lance illustrations for at least one textbook publisher. In a long, successful interlude outside of comic books, as a newspaper cartoonist, Robinson created True Classroom Flubs and Fluffs, which for most of the 1960s ran in the New York Sunday News (later incorporated into the Daily News).
He was president of the National Cartoonists Society from 1967 to 1969 and served a two year term as president of the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists starting in 1973. During the mid Seventies he was a crucial supporter of Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster in their long struggle to win full recognition as the creators of Superman. Robinson organized key support around Siegel and Shuster in time to see his fellow "Golden Age" comic book pioneers given lifetime stipends and a credit in all broadcast and published Superman works in December 1975. In 1978 he founded Cartoonists & Writers Syndicate/CartoonArts International.
During 1999, Robinson created an original manga series called Astra with the help of mangaka Shojin Tanaka and Ken-ichi Oishi. This was later on released in English through Central Park Media by their manga line CPM Manga as a comic book mini-series and then a trade paperback.
On May 26, 2007, DC Comics announced that Robinson had been hired by the company as a "creative consultant". The press release accompanying this announcement did not describe Robinson's duties or responsibilities.
For his work in comics, he won several awards, including the National Cartoonists Society award for the Comic Book Division in 1956, their Newspaper Panel Cartoon for 1963 for Still Life, their Special Features Award in 1965 for Flubs and Fluffs, and their Milton Caniff Lifetime Achievement Award in 2000. Robinson was inducted into the Comic Book Hall of Fame in 2004.